Jorrit Bergsma is one of the Netherlands’ best speed skaters, an Olympic gold medal winner, and husband to Heather Richardson Bergsma, the fastest American female skater in history.
Bergsma lives in the Netherlands, where he skates for a pro team when not training for the Olympics. In PyeongChang, he’ll be competing in the men’s 5,000m and 10,000m races.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. This Is His Second Olympics, and Could be His Second Gold Medal
Bergsma, a speed skater from The Netherlands born in 1986, won the gold medal for the men’s 10,000m in the 2014 Winter Olympics. He won the bronze medal for the men’s 5,000m. He’s competing again in both events in this year’s Olympics in PyeongChang, and hasn’t ruled out another Olympics in 2022.
In 2009, Bergsma won his first skating Marathon at the DSB Bank Cup. In 2010, he won the Dutch Marathon Championships and the Ronde van Duurswold. In 2012, he won the Dutch Marathon Championships again. At the Dutch Single Distance Championships in November 2011, he was the Dutch 5000m champion. He also won the 5000m at the first World Cub in Chelyabinsk, cementing a new rink record of 6:18:74.
2. His Wife Moved to the Netherlands, but Is From North Carolina
Bergsma’s wife Heather, an American speed skater, moved to Aldeboarn, Netherlands in 2014 to live with him. It took a few years, but it’s starting to feel like home.
“I’m starting to feel at home in the Netherlands. At first, I missed being here [in the United States of America] all the time. That surprised me. I didn’t think it would be that way. I thought I would move there, and skate, and it would feel like home. But I did miss America at first, and I think that was mostly the language,” she told Greensboro.com.
On learning the language, she told NBC Sports: “I wouldn’t say I’m fluent yet I understand a lot better than I speak. I took lessons over Skype.”
The couple was married in May 2015 at Adaumant Farm in Trinity, North Carolina. They have a dog and mostly speak English at home.
3. He Skates for a Pro Team, Which is Wildly Popular
In the Netherlands, speed skating is the second most popular sport next to soccer. Bergsma and his wife both skate for the Clafis Skating Team, which is how they make their living when not in the Olympics.
“In the Netherlands, every region of the country has a couple of ice rinks. We’re really crazy about speedskating,” Jorrit told Greensboro.com.
“It’s always packed. Always. Thousands of fans,” Heather agreed.
4. Jorrit and Heather Push Each Other On the Team and Off
The Bergsmas work out together every day, whether it’s skating, lifting weights, running, or biking. If they bike, it’s typically for an hour and a half to two hours. Heather says she pushes Jorrit in sprinting, and he helps her with distance.
The couple also shares a coach. Normally, Heather would train with her Team USA teammates, but because she lives in the Netherlands she trains separately from them some of the time, and shares coach Jillert Anema with Jorrit. Anema has worked in marathon skiing for two decades, and is credited with training Bergsma to the point where he could win his first gold medal.
5. But They Can’t Room Together During the Olympics
Though they’re married, and live and train together in the Netherlands, Jorrit and Heather Bergsma have to stay separately during the Olympics in PyeongChang, because they’re competing for different countries.
“I asked her a funny question the other day. I said, ‘I know you’re husband and wife, and I know you have the same coach. But Jorrit skates for the Netherlands and you skate for the USA. So, do you guys room together for the Olympics?,” Heather’s mom said. “She said, ‘Well, we room separately. I would like to stay with my husband, but because I am on the USA team and he’s on the Netherlands team, we can’t.’ So they’re going to be in two different apartment buildings with their teams.”